Tribute to Mayor Ofir Libstein

Near the end of our eight-day Feast of Tabernacles celebration in October, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem took nearly 700 Christians from some 50 nations on a visit to the western Negev for a solidarity rally with the local Israeli communities along the Gaza border. The colorful, uplifting gathering started with a warm welcome from our friend Ofir Libstein, the mayor of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council.

“Welcome again to Sha’ar HaNegev,” Mayor Libstein told our Feast pilgrims. “We are here just three kilometers from the border with Gaza. The people who live here in Sha’ar HaNegev are keeping the Land of Israel. We are keeping the border with the Gaza Strip. … We have doubled our population in the last 10 years, and everything is with your help—because with your help, we feel safe here. With your [bomb] shelters that you help us buy and put here in the area, we live better lives. And I promise to do everything to keep the Land of Israel [and the] land of this area—and build it stronger and stronger. I am so happy to see you [come] from all over the world … to see this beautiful place. Thank you very much.”

Sadly, Ofir Libstein was killed just two days later, defending his home community of Kfar Aza from the treacherous surprise attack by Hamas terrorists infiltrating from Gaza on October 7. In fact, he was the first named Israeli casualty of the conflict.

Mayor Libstein was a respected leader and a man of peace. Despite years of unrelenting rocket attacks, he still hoped Israelis could live in peace with the Arabs of Gaza. To that end, he oversaw the construction of a water project taking fresh water into northeast Gaza, but Hamas dug up the pipes and made rockets with them. More recently, he spearheaded a planned joint industrial park near the Erez Crossing that would have employed 10,000 Gazan workers in good-paying jobs.

The ICEJ is committed to honoring the life and legacy of Ofir Libstein by continuing to invest more than ever in the safety and future of the recovering Israeli communities along the Gaza border.

Please continue to support our urgent efforts to help Israel through this difficult time and on to a brighter future.